“Hey Aka, can I stash this monster in your cart?” He pointed at the rugged looking ox-driven vehicle Akamaru had recently bought.
“Yeah, there’s a free slot. Is that a weapon?”
“Yeap, a naginata. Obasan gave it to me.”
“I thought you said we weren’t going to bring weapons. Then you brought that huge thing.”
“It’s a gift, I can’t just get rid of it. It looks really cool too. Speak for yourself! You brought a bow.”
“This is for hunting ok.”
“I think if you shoot a bird with that, it will explode.”
“This is the smallest one I’ve got, ok, what do you want.”
“Anyway, I’m going to leave it there til I get home again, whenever that is.”
“That’s what you always say, until you cut someone’s head off with it.”
“Wait, where are we walking to?”
“I think we’re navigating automatically to our assault boat mooring. Where’s the normal ferry jetty? Is it there?” Shiro pointed down a promising looking fork in the road.
“Your sense of direction is hopeless.”
Shiro suddenly felt slightly irritated and did not speak for several seconds. A flutter of wings interrupted his irritated pause.
“Hey Shiro, I have a letter for you.”
“Your pen pal. He complains that you have been ignoring his letters. Actually I’d do the same: he writes too many.”
“Thanks.” Shiro took the letter and smiled. His pen pal was a young and enthusiastic (at least when it came to writing casual letters) fellow who had been a friend of his until they were permanently separated several years ago, when he went off to find a better life in Rennon. Shiro himself seldom managed to summon up the effort to write a reply, but decided this time that he should, as soon as possible; the special occasion being his friend’s birthday. Furthermore, he had not heard from his pen pal for some time; very unusual behavior from someone who sends word weekly.
He ripped off the binding cord and broke the seal, reading his letter as his three friends automatically ignored him and carried on a tripartite conversation. When he had finished, he slotted it into a hollow bamboo scroll holder. The voices of his friends slowly flooded back into his ears.
“What, interesting letter this time?”
“It’s interesting everytime. No, it’s just that for the past 2 months I haven’t heard from him, he’s managed to join the royal guard.”
“Whoa, that’s quite impressive. In 2 months? Rennon’s military is one of the hardest to get into!”
“Yeap, he made it; though he’s not so enthusiastic about his first assignment.”
“Escorting an envoy to one of the outlying villages to do some diplomatic stuff; negotiations, the lot; boring stuff.”
“Eee. They need royal guard for that?”
“Maybe to put up a show.”
“He’s going there to perform a sword dance. Cultural exchange.”
“I think this place they’re going to is more dangerous than he thinks.”
“Yea, there are a lot more uprisings these days.”
“It’s all exaggerated. How can it be that they think living under some warlord’s turf is going to be better than being part of Rennon?”
“Well, it’s happening.”
“Some people can be quite retarded you know?”
“Nah, it’s the local gangs causing trouble that’s all. Wanting to be part of a bigger brotherhood by joining up with one of the warlords. That envoy better be good: negotiating with the yakuza is not going to be easy.”
“They’re coming so far out? We might even meet them on the road to see Al’ Miramar’s cactus gardens.”
“I’m kind of hoping so. It’s been years since.”